What is networking? “A supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest”. There are a number of ways to network both online and in person and professional networking can help you build your career, particularly when you are looking for a new job.
Networking is becoming increasing popular among students – both online and offline. The internet has transformed the way we look for jobs, making searcher quicker and easier. Consider your online bran; your online presence should reflect your professional personality and showcase your skills and experience. Social networks – LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. are free and easy to join. They can be used to get job search advice and tips, to network, and to connect with professionals and companies that are hiring. Many employers now use social media to advertise and recruit new employees and increasingly job seekers are using social media sites as part of their job hunting strategy. These business networking sites allow you to develop relationships that can lead to finding unadvertised vacancies but it’s important to use social media in the right way when you’re looking for a job. There are so many online social networks; I certainly can’t write about them all here so for now I’m going to briefly mention LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
When you’re looking for work; your social network matters. Your friends and connections can tell you about job openings and companies use it to share information and advertise job opportunities. When building up an online professional network, I would only include information in your Facebook profile that you would want business contacts to see.
Twitter is a useful web tool for networking and expanding your contacts base. Job seekers can use Twitter to learn about new opportunities and spread the word about their own experience. Tweeting information about your industry and/or your job search will also alert followers to your own professional skills. You want employers to take you seriously so make sure you offer valuable content.
On LinkedIn you can connect with people from a variety of companies and industries – it’s a bit like sending them your CV; your profile shows your career history, education etc. You can also join groups that relate to your industry, interests etc. and keep up to date with what’s happening in your network. If you aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, I think it’s worth a look, you don’t have to use it to advance your career but I believe it can certainly add value.
The internet has made networking so much more accessible but is it enough to rely on online networking? It certainly has its benefits but there is no substitute for face-to-face networking – people buy from people. Think about where you network, how you network and who with – consider campus social events, volunteer/community activities, lectures, conferences, careers fairs, professional associations, friends and family, colleagues, networking events etc.
I’m new to networking and initially found it a big step out of my comfort zone but I’m learning lots and I’m enjoying it. I really believe that people do business with people they trust so as much as networking seemed a scary concept to me initially, it now makes sense – networking meetings provide an opportunity for like-minded people to get together and find out more about each other and what they offer, word of mouth is so important. I have a website and I use social media and they work but I am my business and hopefully it’s best sales tool?! My knowledge, experience, enthusiasm and integrity are hopefully what make me stand out. “People do business with people because they choose to, not because they have to. We can always find others doing the same thing or selling the same product, it’s the personal connection that makes the difference”.